SAN DIEGO - For most of the season, since he first felt it on a cold day in Syracuse, Cole Kimball had been battling discomfort in his shoulder - tightness when he first started throwing, which got better after he'd warmed up and taken Excedrin to deal with the pain. After five seasons in the Nationals' minor league system, the 25-year-old was finally within reach of the majors, largely because his fastball was humming in the high 90s as a reliever, and he wasn't going to let the chance slip away because of a pesky shoulder problem.
But as the season wore on, Kimball's fastball lost some bite, slipping from the high to the low 90s on radar guns. And on Thursday night, when he walked a batter and allowed two of three inherited runners to score, Kimball decided he'd had enough.
He went to Nationals manager Jim Riggleman after the game, admitted the soreness he'd had in his shoulder. After failing to complete some strengthening exercises, he got a MRI this morning. He's still waiting for the results of that MRI, but the Nationals put him on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
"The doctor said I had a really bad flare-up in my rotator cuff, so we'll take a look at the MRI tonight and go from there," Kimball said. "Hopefully it should just be some rest and a little bit of medicine and then after that we'll get back on track throwing and be all right."
The injury reignited a question the Nationals have wrestled with several times this year already: How soon should a player admit he's playing hurt?
"It's got to be tough for guys, trying to establish themselves in the big leagues and being here a short time and saying, 'I'm hurt,'" Riggleman said. "But if you're hurt, you've just got to say it, because you're just going to make it worse, aggravate a sore area that might just be a little painful but now becomes a real injury."
But Kimball said, "I got up here I wasn't going to go, 'Oh now my arm hurts.'" He'd thrown 3 2/3 scoreless innings to start his time in the majors, though he'd walked four batters in that time. Last night, though, was the tipping point.
"I went straight in there after the game and said, 'This really hurts,'" Kimball said. "It did. I couldn't even push against his hand without a shooting pain. It has nothing to do with the coaching staff, nothing to do with the organization, I'm not where I should be."
Though he'll have to wait for the MRI results to know for sure, Kimball believes his shoulder has no structural damage because he's still able to throw in the low 90s. He hopes rest will be enough to take care of the problem.
"Yeah, it's really disappointing," Kimball said. "I was just kind of crushed yesterday when I he was trying to test me and I just couldn't even push. Pretty disappointed. I'll do everything I have to do to get back."